Pumpkin soup? One might think to pair just about any other food than this with a big, full-bodied Amarone. A light, seasonal, almost vegetarian dish, if it weren’t for a slyly incorporated roast chicken liver (we’ll come back to this later ) matched to a muscular red wine with tremendous dry extract that touches 40 grams per litre, about 10g more than other powerful reds? Yet this pairing is not only one of the most provocative and novel achieved in the Valpolicella region, Amarone’s home, but also one of the greatest.
Why does pairing Amarone with food present such a challenge? The art of pairing wine with food aims to enlighten each morsel with a sip, avoiding the palate becoming saturated by rich dishes. The role of the wine is surely to measure up to the food’s richness, but also to contrast with or complement a recipe, in order to make the experience of both food and wine more memorable.
Scroll down for in-depth Amarone with food pairing recommendations plus eight great wines worth seeking out
Amarone’s traditional production process involves drying the grapes, laid out over wooden mats or strung up from the rafters in a special room in order to decrease water content while maximising sugar and acid levels, then fermenting almost to dryness.
Thanks to this, Amarone has high levels of dry extract; alcohol easily reaches 15% in these wines and can even hit 17% in some cases, resulting in full-bodied wines, often with some residual sugar and an off-dry style.
Naturally, such a wine requires rich foods to level with. The complexity of the blend – from local varieties Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara, Oseleta, with oak ageing over at least two years, though often up to nine or 10 for top examples – suggests Amarone ought to be matched with complex recipes.
Longer-aged releases are more common today than in the past, fostering a better integration of structure in the resulting wines. Extra ageing also enhances savouriness and complexity, which can easily overpower simple dishes.